Archive for October 2012



A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to play a course that is fairly dear to me: Crystal Tree Golf and Country Club in Orland Park, Illinois, which is located approximately 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. This course is close to me, not only because I spend a lot of time in the Crystal Tree neighborhood, but also because I got married next to the tee box of the first hole. I originally got the opportunity to play the course in 2010 thanks to a gift from Denise and John (Beth’s mother and step-father), and planned to play the round in 2011, but timing and schedules never worked out until this year.

Crystal Tree opened in 1989 and was designed by world-renowned Robert Trent Jones, Jr, who also designed Prairie Landing Golf Club in West Chicago, Illinois, and ThunderHawk Golf Club in Beach Park, Illinois. In the mid 2000’s, a new 55,000 square foot clubhouse was built, and the holes were renumbered.

As close as this course is to me, it’s even closer to the two other golfers that was in my group: Mike and Chuck. Both Mike and Chuck caddied at the course in the late 1990’s, but never got a chance to play the course. Prior to the round, John introduced us to the Head Golf Professional for Crystal Tree, Gabe Exiner. It turned out that Mike and Chuck both knew Gabe, because Gabe was the Assistant Golf Professional back when they caddied. Gabe gave us a run-down of the course, and updated Mike and Chuck about the changes that were made since they caddied. John rounded out the foursome, but only acted as the photographer. Even though he didn’t play, he did say he enjoyed the round. I really appreciate the opportunity to play this course, and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity.

The course features four par-3 and four par-5 holes for a total par of 72 at a length of 6,810 yards from the back tees. There are five sets of tees, ranging from a length of 6,810 yards to 5,248 yards. The course weaves its way around the Crystal Tree neighborhood, and many of the fairways do not sit next to another fairway. Overall, this is a fairly hilly course, which is something you don’t see too often in the Chicagoland area. The rolling fairways are generally wide and open, and are surrounded by large trees or the houses that are part of the neighborhood. The design and layout of the fairways is what makes this course so beautiful. Water touches nine of the holes, three of which you’ll need to carry your tee shot or your approach shot over if played safely. Large bunkers are found on every hole, either near the greens, near the fairways, or both. The challenging, undulating greens are generally pretty deep and narrow.

Crystal Tree Golf and Country Club

I think I was the most nervous that I’ve ever been leading up to this round. The Thursday before the round, I went to the driving range and had a pretty bad session. None of my drives felt smooth, and I was slicing a lot of balls. Before the round started, I got a chance to hit a couple balls at the club’s driving range, and things improved a bit, but I was still slicing, including one drive that sliced so far right that it found its way to a nearby parking lot (which was luckily empty). With how I was hitting, my goal was to finish the round with a 110 or better.

Not surprising, I started the round by slicing my drive into thick trees, then proceeded to do the same with my provisional shot. It was kind of disheartening to start the round with poor drives like that, but I had to move on.   My next eight tee shots also went right, but didn’t majorly slice. It wasn’t until the back nine that my tee shots improved, including three really nice tee shots back-to-back-to-back on the 13th, 14th, and 15th. My iron shots were pretty random, mostly with accuracy. I didn’t feel as comfortable with my iron shots as I did in my last couple of rounds. My short game was also a bit random. I had some nice wedge shots and putts, which were probably the key factor in keeping my score low.

I ended up shooting a 105 (33 over par, 57 on the front nine, 48 on the back nine). This consisted of one par, six bogeys, five double bogeys, and the rest triple bogeys.  I 1-putted four times and 3-putted four times, and had four penalties and five sand shots. Much like the last couple of rounds, there was a couple times I was putting for par, but ended up 3-putting for double bogey. I really need to work on my putting a bit more.

Crystal Tree Golf and Country Club – Scores & Stats
Course length: 6,405 yards (silver tee boxes)
Course par: 72
Course rating/slope: 72.0/136 (silver tee boxes)
My score: 105 (33 over par)

Crystal Tree Golf and Country Club
10700 W. 153rd St.
Orland Park, IL 60462

Ryder Cup 2012: Wednesday Practice Round

Posted by cjsharp1 on October 3, 2012 in Events 0 Comments

Last week, the 2012 Ryder Cup took place at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, which is about 25 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, and I was lucky enough to grab a pair of tickets to the Wednesday practice round. The Ryder Cup matches took place on Medinah’s Course 3, which was designed by Tom Bendelow in the 1920’s, then updated by Rees Jones in 2003.

As you could imagine, the course is beautiful and in great condition. The course’s length is 7,657 yards, which is over 300 yards higher than the average course length on a PGA Tour stop. All of the par-3 holes are over 190 yards, including the 13th hole, which is 245 yards. Two of the par-5 holes, the 7th and the 14th, are over 600 yards. Water is most notable on three of the par-3 holes, where players have to carry their tee shot over 100 yards of water to a challenging, undulating green.

Markus joined me for the day, which mostly consisted of us fighting our way through the crowds to get pictures of the players. Markus knew a couple of the guys who were volunteering, so we got a bit of inside knowledge on where the players would be. The Europe team was playing the front nine, while later the US team was playing some of the front nine and some (or all) of the back nine. We eventually worked our way around to the tee box of the 9th hole, which turned out to be a great place to stand. From our spot, we could see the foursomes come down fairway of the par-3 8th hole, then tee off on the 9th hole. They would then later come down to the 11th hole green, which was next to the 9th hole tee box. Farther away, we could see the shared tee box for the 12th and 15th hole.

By the end of the day, I took around 250 pictures… some really good and some not so good (including a couple blurry pictures of Rory McIlroy, who was surprisingly difficult to photograph). Out of those, here’s about 100 that I picked out to show. Enjoy!
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Lost Marsh Golf Course

Posted by cjsharp1 on October 3, 2012 in Courses 0 Comments

Over the course of working on this project, I have traveled all over Chicagoland to play some some great courses (and some not-so-great courses) in northeast Illinois. A couple weekends ago, though, Markus and I headed across the east state border of Illinois to Hammond, Indiana to play one of the few Indiana courses in the project: Lost Marsh Golf Course. The course is located approximately 20 miles southeast of downtown Chicago, just minutes from the Chicago Skyway. Lost Marsh was designed by Charles Howard and opened in 2003. Although the layout and design of the course stands out, the first thing you’ll notice as you arrive at the course is the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired prairie-style clubhouse, which sits atop a hill that used to be a former industrial site. Throughout the round, it’s easy to look in the distance and see this beautiful clubhouse.

The course features four par-3 and four par-5 holes for a total par of 72 at a length of 6,803 yards from the back tees (named Tournament). The holes were recently re-numbered, and the tees were reconfigured to have four tee boxes instead of three, a change that has been reflected in the scorecard but not yet on the signs near the tee boxes. The next tees (named Championship) drop the length to 6,370 yards, followed by 5,859 and 4,972 yards on the two subsequent tees (named Green and Regular, respectively). I will mention that playing from the Green tees does make the course much easier to play, mostly thanks to a couple of challenging tee shots that the back two tee boxes need to make on some holes. There is a notable difference between the front nine and the back nine. The prairie-style fairways are generally open and straight, surrounded by small rolling hills, thick grass, and trees (on the back nine). On the front nine, it’s pretty easy to see what surrounds the fairways… water… a lot of water. Water touches six of the holes on the front nine, including four of the holes that has water nearly surrounding the whole fairway. One notable hole on the front nine is the 3rd hole (a 474 yard par-4), where water surrounds the entire fairway, from tee to green. On the front nine, you’ll need to carry water seven times, either on your tee shot or on your way to the green. On the back nine, water touches only three holes, including the 11th hole (a 171 yard par-3), which features an island tee box. With all the focus on water, bunkers do exist, but are somewhat scarce. The undulating greens are fairly large, and played pretty soft and slow for my round. In fact, the whole course was pretty soft, which you’ll see an example of in the pictures below where one of my [high] tee shots dove deep into the soft fairway.

Lost Marsh Golf Course

I think I can safely say that Lost Marsh is one of my favorite courses in the Chicagoland area. Not only is it a beautiful course with a challenging layout, it’s also a short drive from downtown Chicago (take Lake Shore Drive to Stoney Island Avenue to the Skyway, and you’ll get there in less than 20 minutes, hitting barely any traffic). Also, the greens fees are very competitive, if not cheaper, compared to some of the other nice courses in Chicagoland. If I could change anything about this course, I’d add more, or larger, bunkers, to make it more comparable to a course like Harborside. Needless to say… play this course!

Going into this round, I did plenty of research on the layout of this course, so I knew exactly what I was up against. As I imagined, the water around the front nine gave me the most issues.  I actually started the round off well, when I hit the fairway with my hybrid tee shot on the 1st hole (a 340 yard par-4). After that, it was pretty much downhill from there. Nearly all of my tee shots and iron shots throughout the first seven holes were pushed or sliced right, either into what rough existed or the water. It was until the 8th hole (a 180 yard par-3) that my tee shot went straight again.  After that hole, the rest of the round was more like I how normally play: random tee shots, random iron shots, and random putting.

I ended up shooting a 117 for the round (45 over par, 63 on the front nine, 54 on the back nine), which was one of my worst rounds within the last couple of years. Honestly though, I went into this round not expecting to break 100, so I’m fine with this score. My score consisted of a couple bogeys, but mostly double and triple bogeys. The one stat that stand out the most was my nine penalty shots throughout the first seven holes. I 1-putted four times and 3-putted six times, and had just one sand shot. As poor as I played, and as much trouble the water gave me, I still think this is a great course, and I encourage anyone to play this course.

Lost Marsh Golf Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 6,370 yards (Championship tee boxes)
Course par: 72
Course rating/slope: 71.6/127 (Championship tee boxes)
My score: 117 (45 over par)

Lost Marsh Golf Course
1001 129th Street
Hammond, IL 46320

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